What are database servers in ArcGIS?

This topic applies to ArcEditor and ArcInfo only.

Within ArcGIS software, the term database servers refers to instances of Microsoft SQL Server Express that have been enabled to store geodatabases.

You create geodatabases and perform other administrative tasks for database servers through the Database Servers node in the Catalog window or ArcCatalog. Performing the administration of the database server and its geodatabases through ArcGIS Desktop means there is no extra software or database administration expertise required for you to create and use these types of ArcSDE geodatabases.

Connections to the geodatabases on a database server are always direct connections; they use the ArcSDE library files in the client to make the connection. In this case, the client applications are ArcGIS Desktop at the ArcEditor or ArcInfo license level, ArcGIS Engine, and ArcGIS Server Workgroup.

The media for these products include installation files for SQL Server Express. Once you have created the SQL Server Express instance and run the wizard to enable the instance to store geodatabases, the libraries within the client application allow you to connect to and work with the database servers and create and work with geodatabases on the database server.

With ArcGIS Desktop (ArcEditor and ArcInfo) and ArcGIS Engine, you can set up a database server and create ArcSDE geodatabases that can be accessed by a few users and edited by one user at a time.

With ArcGIS Server Workgroup using ArcGIS Desktop, you can set up a database server and create ArcSDE geodatabases that can be accessed by up to 10 users at a time, all of whom can be editing concurrently. When using the database servers licensed through ArcGIS Server Workgroup, you can also connect to the geodatabases using Web applications, for which there is no connection limit.

The following table presents a summary of functionality available in geodatabases created on database servers:

Type of client-to-database connection

Direct connection

Database administration

Through ArcGIS Desktop or ArcObjects

CPU limit


Backup/Recovery model used


User able to alter geodatabase configuration


Type of user/group logins

Operating system (Windows) authenticated


Uses same code page as the server

XML column support

Yes (ArcGIS 9.3 and later releases)

Versioned editing support


Archiving support


Replication support


Support for user-defined views


Support for SQL Server spatial types

Yes (ArcGIS 9.3 and later releases)

Support for ST_Raster storage type